☰ menu   

Swiss Combat Counterfeit Cheese With “DNA” Testing

Counterfeit cheese is unfortunately not a new phenomenon — and it’s something the Swiss are all too familiar with. According to Bloomberg, approximately 10% of Emmentaler sold in supermarkets are counterfeits, made in Italy or other countries. While true Emmentaler is produced under tight regulations, fakes aren’t held to the same standards. The Globe and Mail reports:

The fakes tend to be produced on the cheap with milk that contains additives that are banned in Emmentaler. A consumer probably couldn’t taste the difference with a young cheese, but the task becomes easier as the authentic cheese matures and the nutty and spicy flavours become more pronounced.

So what is an Alpine cheese purist to do when looking for the real deal? No need to stroll the dairy aisle in spy gear– employees of Switzerland Cheese Marketing will do the work for you. Scientists have recently identified a bacteria that can be added to true Emmentaler without altering the appearance, texture, or taste. The foolproof cheeses arrived on supermarket shelves in May, and since then Switzerland Cheese Marketing employees have been inspecting grocery cheese sections. If an Emmentaler seems suspicious, it will be sent to a lab in Bern for “DNA” testing, to make sure that it bears strains of the special bacteria. 

And what will become of the fraudulent cheeses? As The Globe and Mail explained,

If a counterfeit is uncovered, the retailer will be asked to pull it off the shelves and reveal the supplier. The organization may also apply for an injunction and could even sue for damages. If the supplier turns out to be a member of Emmentaler Switzerland, they will be slapped with a fine and could even face exclusion.

As cheaper varieties are outselling PDO-labeled Swiss cheeses (June 2014 marked the first time in history that Switzerland’s imports of cheese topped exports), cheesemakers of other varieties, like Sbrinz and Tete de Moine, are looking into “DNA fingerprinting” to ensure the quality of their cheese can be taken at face value. “If the cheese is an inferior fake, it ruins the reputation,” Agnes Beroud, who works for the producers’ association for Tete de Moine, told Bloomberg. “For us, it’s important to protect the traditional way of making the cheese.”

Photo: ?heese on wooden board in the room by Africa Studio on shutterstock

Amanda Minoff

Amanda graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine with a degree in English Literature and Art History. She is a reader and writer of fiction and loves cheese that tells a good story.